Barbara L. Massoudi, MPH, PhD

Current Affiliation: Director, Public Health Informatics Program, Center for the Advancement of Health IT, RTI International
Adjunct, Department of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics, Rollins School of Public Health of Emory University

Education: Graduate Certificate in Public Health Informatics, Rollins School of Public Health of Emory University
Epidemic Intelligence Service, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
PhD, Occupational Epidemiology, University of Pittsburgh
MPH, Environmental Epidemiology, University of Pittsburgh
BS, Public Health, Southern Connecticut State University

How do you describe your work to those outside the field?

I think of the informatics role as being a liaison communicating between the domain experts in one’s field and the technologists. In my case it’s public health and the people doing the IT technical work. Quite a bit of what I do as an informatician is as a go between those two groups and translating back and forth. Informatics, and public health informatics more so, are newly emerging fields and we are still learning how to define ourselves in terms of our approaches, our methodologies, and the skill sets that we need to have. We are still evolving. For me, informatics is a field where we can pull from the best practices of many different disciplines and apply them in a systematic way to the work we do within our own field. That’s going to be the challenge for us in the near future. To figure out what it is that we want to pull from other fields in terms of being multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary and what we want to define, develop, and claim as something that’s grown organically out of our own public health informatics field.

Years of experience:

I was a little bit of a latecomer to informatics because I went to school initially for epidemiology and got my PhD and did my Fellowship in epidemiology. Overall, I have more than 25 years of experience in public health and health, but in informatics it’s about 15 years.

Why informatics?

When I was strictly doing epidemiology, I recognized that I could contribute to my field in some meaningful ways but probably in somewhat limited ways. I could do a study that identified a new risk factor for a disease or evaluated a public health intervention, and that would certainly contribute to the profession’s body of knowledge about that disease or that intervention. But I saw an opportunity as an informatics professional to make an impact that could potentially help not only all the epidemiologists working in public health, but all public health professionals even more generally. For me it was an opportunity to get involved in something that was just getting off the ground and to hopefully be able to somehow shape what it grew into and how it was disseminated as a new field within the broader practice of public health.

What are your ambitions? At the end of your career, what do you hope to have accomplished?

This ties back to my choice of public health initially in my professional career. I would hope that when I’m gone and somebody thinks of me or remembers me, that they can say that I made something better in the world for someone.  That’s my overall ambition. I would also love to be an ACMI Fellow and an AMIA Board of Director member someday. To me that would be the pinnacle of my career.

Who or what are your “key sources” in the informatics field?

First and foremost, the person who I think of as a key source and also my mentor in the field is Dave Ross. He really has been someone that I’ve looked up to and try to emulate as I make decisions in my career and think about what I want to do in informatics. Also, my good friend, Janise Richards, who was the first person who explained to me what informatics was and helped me to meet people who were doing informatics work. With her help I started to piece together a picture of what the informatics field was, where it needed to go, and what it needed to be for public health. Also, I will say, Marty LaVenture, such a smart and kind man. I really look up to him professionally. AMIA, of course, and JAMIA. I think the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice is a great informatics resource for public health folks who are practicing in the field because it reaches those who might not consider themselves to be informatics professionals, but who desperately need to know what informatics professionals know and how to work with them. That’s an important source for me as well. I would also say my colleagues in the Public Health Informatics Working Group are a tremendous source of information and inspiration for me.

Articles that spotlight my research interests:

Olmsted, M.A., Massoudi, B.L., & Zhang, Y. (2014). What consumers want in personal health applications: findings from Project HealthDesign. Personal and Ubiquitous Computing. doi:  10.1007/s00779-014-0811-2

Massoudi, B. L., Goodman, K., Gotham, I. J., Holmes, J. H., Lang, L., Miner, K., et al. (2012). An informatics agenda for public health: Summarized recommendations from the 2011 AMIA PHI Conference. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.

Kass-Hout, T., Buckeridge, D., Brownstein, J., Xu, Z., McMurrey, P., Ishikawa, C. K., Gunn, J., & Massoudi, B. L. (2012). Self-reported fever and measured temperature in emergency department records used for syndromic surveillance. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, 19(5), 775–776. doi:10.1136/amiajnl-2012-000847

Massoudi, B. L., Olmsted, M. G., Zhang, Y., Carpenter, R., Barlow, C. E., & Huber, R. (2010). A web-based intervention to support increased physical activity among at-risk adults. Journal of Biomedical Informatics, 43(5 Suppl 1):S41-S45.

Kass-Hout, T., Gray, S., Massoudi, B. L., Immanuel, G., Dollacker, M., & Cothren, R. (2007). NHIN, RHIOs, and public health. Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, 13(1), 31–34.

What are your hobbies? Interests outside of AMIA? Passions?

I think everybody who knows me probably also knows my son, Nick. He’s 18 and just went off to college but he accompanied me to many conferences over the years. In fact he’s attended AMIA a couple of times. And at the time he would have been proud to tell you that he had his own badge made up for him. He actually has worked on some of my projects with me as well. I’m an animal lover and I especially love German Shepherds and other dogs and I tend to rescue them wherever I find one that is in some sort of dire circumstance. I have two right now. I’ve been teaching at Emory as an adjunct for 11 years now, and that, I would say, is definitely one of my passions. Teaching and mentoring, that has been something very fulfilling for me. I teach three informatics courses for them.

AMIA is important to me because …

I’ve always said that AMIA is my professional home. As a public health informatics person, this is where I go for the hard core informatics information. AMIA has been tremendously educational for me. When I was trying to figure out what informatics was, and what informatics would be for public health, I attended an AMIA meeting in 2001 to set the public health informatics agenda - the first agenda setting meeting that we had. That meeting really struck me - it changed the direction of my career. I’ve always thought of AMIA as being the source for my informatics education and networking. I’m very dedicated to AMIA.

I am involved with AMIA …

I am a past chair of the Public Health Informatics Working Group and I am the current chair-elect, so in January I’ll be the chair once again for my second term. I also led the Scientific Planning and chaired the second Public Health Informatics Agenda-setting meeting, which took place 10 years later, in 2011. I’ve been a member of the Working Group Steering Committee and Membership Committee for about five years. I’ve been part of AMIA’s Mentoring Program and I co-chaired that one year recently. AMIA has a business partnership for our corporate sponsors and I was part of that from 2000, when I started my affiliation with AMIA. I would love to be on an AMIA Task Force someday. I feel like that is the next logical step for me in terms of involvement, and as I said, the pinnacle would be being on the Board.

It may surprise people to know …

I’m pretty much an open book. Everybody probably knows everything about me. But there is one thing… I had a job milking three cows in high school. That would surprise some people, although some of them know about my cow thing and I get cow-related gifts on occasion. I didn’t grow up on a farm. I went to boarding school in Massachusetts that had a working farm and I was thrilled to be there because I love animals and this was a chance to do something that I thought I would probably never have a chance to do again in my life. And it’s true. The opportunity to milk cows has not come up again since high school!

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